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Compare and Contrast

Well, that passed all too quickly, did it not – the best Summer since (recent) records began. Whatever did we find to talk about?
 
Kirkcudbright and indeed South-West Scotland generally were as blessed as other parts of the UK, albeit the statistics show that our very own micro-climate allows Kirkcudbright to escape the worst extremes of climate change. And, unlike the Highlands and Islands, we remain a midge-free zone to this day.
 
Seven days just spent in the delightful Italian lakeside town of Como have led me to compare our respective merits and attractions. Each is, in its own way, a classy and high-quality destination where the visitor is valued and welcomed and, whereas Como wins out for the sun-lovers amongst us, Kirkcudbright will appeal to those preferring more moderate climes: snow and ice are rare visitors indeed and one’s sleep is rarely disturbed by the discomfort of excess humidity.
 
Of course, when talk turns to eating and shopping, our Southern neighbours have a clear-cut advantage in both numbers and range. It was simply impossible to walk down any street there without coming across a trattoria or a ristorante or – now – a pizzeria whilst better-end, innovative Menswear shops were two a Euro. Regional and seasonal specialities such as vitello blanco, porcini funghi and filetti di pesce persico were over-indulged whilst the town’s rich silk-making tradition found its way into both our suitcases! And do not the Italians know how to enjoy all this with effortless style?
 
Which said, Kirkcudbright puts on a good showing in both categories with a wide range of eateries – Polarbites being our favourite – and a vibrant High Street offering distinctive local produce , a wide selection of Art and Crafts goods to reflect our Artists’ Town’s heritage and every knick-knack necessary for a complete holiday with family or friends.
 
And, once away from the table or the fitting-room, our region’s amazing offer of activities and attractions, coastal and inland landscapes and its bulging calendar of festivals and fairs kicks Lombardy firmly into touch. The most recent addition to these is October’s Kirkcudbright’s Festival of Light, celebrating the opening in June of the Kirkcudbright Galleries and bringing together visual art, music, craft and light installations. (See www.kirkcudbrightlight.com for the programme.)
 
Should we call it a draw – or perhaps even consider  twinning our 2 towns?

~ Until next time!
Peter

 

Last Minute, Low Cost Luxury

Opening on  Friday 5th October and extending over the next 10 days, Kirkcudbright’s inaugural Festival of Light – in celebration of its recently opened Art Galleries – will illuminate the town both metaphorically and in practice. The full programme may be found at www.kirkcudbrightlight.com
 
To mark the occasion, we are offering a week’s accommodation at £720 – a full 25% discount off our published price. Parties of up to 10 are welcome, plus 2 well-behaved dogs should you so wish!
 
October is often the best month of the year in Dumfries and Galloway, the Autumn colours richly embellishing the region’s natural beauty. The Festival of Light will bring make time spent with us even more memorable.

Our glorious Scottish microclimate wins again in Dumfries and Galloway!

The glorious summer sunshine on Castleview House in Kirkcudbright Dumfries and GallowayWell, the weather Gods have shone upon Kirkcudbright and on Castleview House for most of the summer months, allowing our splendid community glossy magazine, Dumfries & Galloway Life, to lead this month’s edition with the immortal words, “How glorious does Dumfries & Galloway look in glorious sunshine?”.
 
The month of August kicked off with our unique Art & Crafts Trail with its over 100 exhibits nestling in the town itself. This year’s Pirates theme produced many a Johnny Depp lookalike, whilst the magnificent Giant Willow Horse – all 18 feet of him! – elegantly graced Fisherman’s Green.
 
The region’s rich, rural heritage was seen in countless Country Fairs and Galas, the Galloway Country Fair in the grounds of Thornhill’s wonderful Drumlanrig Castle being the stand-out event.
 
Our new Kirkcudbright Galleries have hit the ground running with almost 20,000 visitors in the first two months, supported by the renowned Whitehouse Gallery’s Summer Exhibition and Galloway Perspectives at the Tolbooth Arts Centre on Kirkcudbright High Street. And then there’s the spectacular Kirkcudbright Tattoo & Fireworks Display this coming Saturday to close our Summer Festivities with an audience of thousands expected on the night.
 
Not too shabby an offer for a community of around 5,000 souls but should you prefer something more sedate and solitary, then try a walk around the ancient woodland of Carstramon Wood hidden deep in the Fleet Valley next to Gatehouse and some 20 minutes drive away. Pied flycatchers, redstarts, wood and willow warblers trill happily away, whilst rare butterflies like the speckled wood, large skipper and meadow browns are everywhere to be seen. The glorious fungus season, moreover, is just around the corner.
 
Oh to be in DB6/D&G now that Autumn is near!

~ Until next time!

Peter
 
PS – and don’t forget to enter our free prize draw competition for a complimentary long weekend for four: details are on our Facebook page and the winner will be announced on 31st August 2018. Good luck everyone!

Summer fun in Kirkcudbright

The summer sun and the school holidays have arrived in tandem in Kirkcudbright and Castleview House will resound to the noise of fun-loving families from now until early autumn.
 
Happily, the town and its surrounding district are well-prepared to keep all tastes and age-groups busy and content across these weeks.

Castleview House backs on to the super Hope-Dunbar Park in Kirkcudbright

Castleview House backs on to the super Hope-Dunbar Park in Kirkcudbright

One of the two verandas at Castleview House in Kirkcudbright

One of the two verandas at Castleview House in Kirkcudbright

The Kirkcudbright town’s programme of Summer Festivities, now in its 41st year, provides a  colourful Scottish Night every Thursday in the Harbour Square, culminating in the spectacular Floodlit Tattoo and Firework Display on the last Saturday in August.

There will be fireworks, rockets, candles and wheels taking off from Hope-Dunbar Park directly behind Castleview House, affording our guests an almost private viewing of the show from both the house and our verandas!

Ghost Tours, Town Walks and the amazing Art and Crafts Trail features over 100 venues and exhibits, with our own Incorporated Trades in handsome red sandstone prominent amongst them.
 
Hardy annuals for the kids can be found at Twynholm’s Cocoa Bean Factory with its Chocolate Workshops, indoor and outdoor play areas, Chocolate Factory shop offering over 100 varieties of chocolate, plus its Cafe/Restaurant at Cream O’ Galloway with its renowned ice creams and cheeses, “Go Boing” Aerial Netting Adventure, slides and rides and pedal karts and Findlay’s Ethical Farm – all interspersed with wonderful Gallovidian walks and nature trails.
 
For the more rugged amongst us, Laggan Outdoors at Gatehouse of Fleet provides an 800-metre, 2-person zip-wire, mountain-boarding and downhill-balling so find your inner self and get ready to scream! Galloway Activity Centre, perched on the stunning banks of Loch Ken, caters both for serious water-sports followers and for pure fun-lovers – wobbly water-parks, stand-up paddle boarding, water-slides and the Giant 3G Swing all attest to this.
 
More sedately, bird-watching centred upon the region’s extraordinary world of Birds of Prey  – don’t miss the daily Red Kite Feeding Fest at Laurieston on the Galloway Kite Trail – or the wetlands at Caerlaverock and the Ospreys at Threave is out-of-this-world whilst, right on your doorstep, the newly-opened multi-million pound Kirkcudbright Galleries take the town’s artistic history to another level with both visiting and permanent exhibitions: Scotland’s Early silver, Art Explorers and Stars of Scotland run through the coming weeks alongside the varied and extensive works of Kirkcudbright’s thriving  artist community.
 
And at the end of it all, just relax on one of our two fine verandas, watching a spectacular Stewartry Sunset, catered for – if you wish – by Nick Morris from the award-winning Station House Cookery School. “Gloriana!”, as J. Rees-Mogg might have it.

Until next time!

~ Peter
 

PS: the following websites will provide more information on the attractions listed above:

                               www.kirkcudbrighttown.co.uk
                               www.artandcraftstrail.com
                               www.thecocoabeancompany.com
                               www.creamofgalloway.co.uk
                               www.lagganoutdoor.co.uk
                               www.lochken.co.uk
                               www.gallowaykitetrail.co.uk                                     
                               www.wwt.org.uk/wetlandcentre/carlaverock
                               www.kirkcudbrightgalleries.org.uk
                               www.stationhousecookeryschool.co.uk

The Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival

Castleview House is the perfect location from which to stay and enjoy the Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival

Why not stay at Castleview House and enjoy the Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival?

Over the weekend of 14th– 17thJune, Kirkcudbright’s 21st Annual Jazz Festival filled the town with upbeat music and happy jazz fans; a terrific, unbroken record during a time when (allegedly) bigger and better music events have been and gone.

Sadly, I was unable to take advantage of this rich and varied jazz offering over the four days as Castleview House was fully occupied by ‘Jazz à Bichon’, an outstanding and rare French jazz combo specialising in the sounds of the Roaring Twenties.

Without the involvement of even a single curly-haired dog, Georges, Guy, Marc, Philippe, Jean-Pierre and Eric wowed full houses across five locations and all four days of the festival. Castleview House is reported still to be standing.

Other leading jazz attractions at the Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival included the now established International All-Stars (two Germans, one Dutchman and two Scots), A Thé Dansant at the amazing Cocoa Bean Factory, Dumfries and Galloway’s Youth Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Suppers, the stunning Saturday Brolly Parade and a Sunday Jazz Service.

New for this year in the town’s splendid new Kirkcudbright Art Galleries (see Blog 3) was a talk on the glorious career of Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong. All in all, a top-quality event in a great setting.

The next Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival is scheduled for 13th– 16thJune 2019, so if you are a jazz fan seeking luxurious five star, self-catering accommodation nearby, then we would advise you to book Castleview House now to avoid disappointment.

In the meantime, great jazz gigs emerge frequently in and around Kirkcudbright, with two acts well-known to us at our Wine Bar, Ann et Vin in Newark-on-Trent, the Tim Kliphuis Trio and Jeff Barnhart’s All-Stars, both of whom perform regularly in Twynholm and in Gatehouse on Fleet. Indeed, across the region, Dumfries and Galloway’s rich cultural musical tradition is seen in wide, accessible and inventive musical offers. Watch out especially for the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Live festival in May 2019 and the boutique family Eden Festival in June 2019.

Until next time.

~ Peter

The grand opening of the Kirkcudbright Galleries

Kirkcudbright’s status as Scotland’s Artists’ Town took a giant step forward last week with the opening of the Kirkcudbright Galleries in the former Town Hall on St Mary’s Street. As Friends of the Galleries, Julie and I were honoured to be invited to the preview on Friday ahead of Saturday’s opening to the public.

The multi-million pound project, generously financed by the EU Leader Fund, Heritage Lottery, Dumfries and Galloway Council and by the sterling efforts of Kirkcudbright’s own art lovers, has transformed the murky and musty red sandstone structure into a bright, inviting and contemporary space.

The Ground Floor is dedicated to the paintings, drawings, illustrations, book covers, ceramics and sculptures created by artists who lived in or visited the town to take advantage of its sparkling light and stunning landscapes.

Works by Hoernel, Peploe and Jessie M. King feature prominently, alongside a meticulous re-creation of Charles Oppenheimer’s studio.

But towering above all else for the Galleries’ early weeks is Landseer’s iconic Monarch of the Glen, gazing imperiously down on all who approach, whilst Kirkcudbright’s identity and attractions are neatly summed up in a stencilled quotation from Dorothy L. Sayers, “If one lives in Galloway, one either fishes or paints…”.

Visiting exhibitions occupy the Second Floor with a varied, occasionally challenging raft of contemporary offerings from WASPS – Workshops Artists Studio Provision Scotland – contrasting sharply with the traditional fare below.

Particularly striking is the curved, almost sculptural representation of three androgynous figures entitled Neutrois/Trans Identity, which is art at its very best. Everything was pleasantly watered by a glass of decent white wine (hence the slightly blurry photo!) and accompanied by delicious Galloway nibbles!

For more information on this splendid addition to our Artists Town’s attractions, please visit www.kirkcudbrightgalleries.org.uk and, should you be in a generous mood, you might very well consider becoming a Friend of Kirkcudbright Galleries for a mere £20 a year.

~ Peter Duncan

More history about Castleview House

After my opening blog post, and to my considerable surprise, a number of you got back in touch so as to learn more of the story and history behind Castleview House. Back in 2011 at the time of purchase, I too had been keen to know more as to quite how these honest Kirkcudbright but and bens had sunk into the state that they were in.

Originally a row of three cottages at ground level only and built towards 1800 in the tradition two-room style, the property in Millburn Street lay outside the then town boundaries and formed part of an industrial community. Little is known of the history of its journey through the 19th Century ahead of its upward extension around 1900, but local gossip suggests that it may have gained notoriety as a “honeymoon hotel” at some point.

Castleview House in Kirkcudbright was converted from a Masonic Lodge into a luxury five-start self-catering accommodation

Masonic memorabilia from the fascinating history of Castleview House

After the First World War, a family of Irish coal merchants, the McConnells moved in with the house becoming their depot. The patriarch Moses’ demise is commemorated in the stamp located in our Loft Room – he sadly died in a fall from his coal wagon, perhaps after drink had been taken in one of the town’s many hostelries, and the family gravestone can now be found in Kirkcudbright Cemetery.

However, Castleview House’s most distinguished occupant arrived in the 1950’s when a London banker Mr. Sproat-Williamson, purchased the now much sub-divided property as a retirement home for two family retainers.

Once they had moved on, the structure was then transformed into Masonic Lodge No. 41 of the Kilwinning Ayrshire Branch, reflecting Kirkcudbright’s strong links with the Protestant faith in general and, presumably, Sproat-Williamson’s background in particular, and it functioned as such for nearly 50 years until 2007 when numbers declined and money ran out.

A rare archive of Masonic memorabilia can be found in the Heritage Neuk on the first floor (see image left).

A full photographic record of the conversion to today’s 5-star luxury self-catering environment is also available to view.

A main feature of this was the re-instatement – yes! – of a ceiling that ran the length of the house and which had been removed to create the essential Masonic Temple.

This massive piece of work allowed the building to operate once more on three levels and to return to its former status and, whilst I am happy to report that there are no recorded sightings to date of ghostly presences, it would be interesting indeed to be able to delve back in time and learn more of the goings-on at the top of the town.

Stay tuned for more musings coming shortly!

~ Peter Duncan

Castleview House is five years old already!

Goodness me! Did those first 5 years as Kirkcudbright’s first VisitScotland 5-Star Holiday Home not pass us all by very quickly?

The best testimony to our success lies in the many kind compliments paid by our guests upon departure.

This recent example captures the mood of most, “Staying at Castleview House was an absolute delight. You should be proud of what has been achieved and of providing your guest with everything they could possibly wish for. Thank you!”  

We even had one guest who refused to leave but that’s another story.

When we bought the town’s former Masonic Lodge in 2011 – from our eventual neighbours – it was an utterly unloved wreck but with untold potential, both to eat up all my savings and to fulfil my long-held dream of restoring an old property’s dignity and converting it to a worthwhile modern purpose. In neither respect was I disappointed. Our  estimable Architect Glynne Shackleton’s gamble in replacing a conventional opening with a soaring and majestic arched window gave me many sleepless nights but turned into a triumph, whether from the inside looking out onto the splendid Hope-Dunbar Park and Barrhill Wood or from the outside when our Christmas Trees glows warmly in December. The property is now a local landmark.

We like to believe that Castleview House, whilst essentially traditional in character, happily blends the vernacular with a number of contemporary and idiosyncratic features. From the Vivienne Westwood wallpaper in the Shortbread Suite, through the wall of distinctive 1930’s travel posters making up a map of Britain to a bathroom for each bedroom and a swing-seat to relax on with a single malt in hand and a Scottish sunset ahead, what more could you ask of a holiday free of midges and full of the sights and sounds that we associate with times past?

~ Peter Duncan